Monday, October 08, 2018

Crisis in Rhodesia (1965)

The crisis in Rhodesia showed—if indeed it was necessary to do so—that whatever else we may be short of there is still plenty of nonsense being talked.

We heard, for example, talk about our “kith and kin" in Rhodesia, which suggests that there is a sacred, family tie between British workers and the Rhodesian ruling class. Perhaps this propaganda was effective: it was reported that the British government hesitated about sending troops to Rhodesia because they feared something like a repetition of the Curragh Mutiny in 1914.

We heard lots about the “rights" of majorities and the “legalities" of Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, as if such things are immutable and are not ignored and defied when it suits a governments’ purposes to do so. Human “rights" have had such a rough time of it during the past few years that it is surprising that any government still dares to speak in their name.

And, of course, we had the familiar racist nonsense, about the supposed inferiority of the African, and his inherent inability to behave in the same way as the established proletariat of the older capitalist countries.

There were signs that the decision to make a UDI was not reached without considerable argument in Salisbury. Mr. Smith prevaricated for a long time, after originally giving the impression that the break was due in the immediate future.

Perhaps this was a result of the arm-twisting by the British government. But whatever the short term effect of the sanctions, there is every reason to think that in the long run Rhodesia will weather the storm. It will find other outlets for its produce, and reach other arrangements on its international finances to replace those which have been ended. Indeed, there may even be some sort of tie-up between Rhodesia and some of the Negro African states. Malawi for one made it clear that it did not favour the imposition of sanctions, which might mean that the two countries will get together over a trade deal.

Mr. Wilson was at some pains to establish the fact that Labour's policy was a continuation of the Tories’. This did not prevent Mr. Heath getting what advantage he could from the situation, by making the familiar charge that, although there was no difference in principle between the two parties, Labour were bungling the job.

This basic agreement indicates that the British ruling class as a whole, whatever Lord Salisbury may think, realises what will be the result of a UDI. The present Rhodesian government can probably stay in power only by imposing a system similar to what exists in South Africa.

This will have its repercussions in terms of sabotage and other forms of violence, and in continual unrest. It will hold back Rhodesia's development into a modern capitalist nation. This may suit the interests of the Rhodesian farmers but the country’s industrialists, and the capitalists abroad who have money invested there, must take a different attitude.

They are more likely to be in favour of accepting the inevitable and salvaging what they can, as they have done in the other newly independent states of Africa.

If a Negro-dominated Rhodesia is inevitable—however far into the future it maybe—what is likely to follow? There will probably by changes in the white landholdings. Some of them may be split up and distributed to Africans; so called Land Reform often accompanies the success of nationalist revolts.

There will also be changes in Rhodesia’s social structure. The tribal chiefs will decline in power, to be replaced by a new ruling class, mostly with coloured skins. The African people will be developed into a fully-fledged proletariat.

And, if recent history is any guide, Rhodesia may well become another Negro dictatorship, with the new government’s opponents persecuted, exiled, even murdered.

Who can say that this is preferable to the white settlers’ dictatorship under Mr. Smith? For the people of Rhodesia the outlook is unpromising.

No comments: